What Is a Magnolia Tree?


A popular tree for home gardeners and landscapers, the magnolia tree is one of the most versatile of all trees. With its large leaves and especially large and fragrant flower petals, it has the ability to offer beauty, but curiously does not attract bees. The magnolia tree is not one species, but a genus of dozens of trees and hundreds more hybrid trees that are engineered specifically for certain qualities.


Magnolia trees are those that are part of the genus Magnoliaceae. It is an angiosperm, meaning simply that it is a flowering plant. The plants are of the order Magnoliales. The scientific classification is not often used as the plants mainly go by common names such as southern magnolia or star magnolia, just to name a few.


Magnolia trees are greatly diversified, with some such as the southern magnolia capable of reaching heights up to 80 feet. Others may grow only as tall as large shrubs, perhaps not much more than 8 feet tall. Most of the trees in the species have large leaves and the blooms tend to have very large flower petals. Some magnolia trees are evergreens and others are deciduous, and this could partially depend on where the tree is located.


The magnolia tree types include more than 80 species native to the eastern United States and southeast Asia. In addition to those natural plants, engineering and hybridization have added hundreds more to the mix as well. These trees are bred often for traits such as cold tolerance and flower color. The trees live from the tropics all the way to the zones at least as cold as USDA Zone 4, found in locations such as Minnesota.


Unlike many plants, whose flowers attract bees, butterflies and birds, magnolias typically produce little nectar. Therefore, most of the pollination is done by beetles who feed on the pollen as a source of protein. In most locations, the trees bloom in the spring and may even bloom before new leaves appear, giving the tree a very unique appearance for the first few weeks after dormancy.


In addition to their appearance, magnolias are popular due to their versatility. They are resistant to many types of pests, can adapt to almost any soil conditions and can even survive variable levels of watering. Therefore, the care of the tree is extremely easy and it should provide years of enjoyment with very little attention paid to it. You may wish to use a fertilizer around the tree, however. If so, it should be one with an equal mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Keywords: magnolia tree species, magnolia trees, magnolia tree blooms, magnolia tree care

About this Author

Kenneth Black has been a freelance writer since 2008. He currently works as a staff writer for "The Times Republican" in Central Iowa. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including business, politics, family life and travel. Black holds a bachelor's degree in business marketing from the University of Phoenix.